Ever since Naropa University student Zayd Atkinson was detained without cause for the non-crime of picking up garbage while Black, the City of Boulder’s response provides some hope for the future, but the response of some Boulder police officers should give us all pause.
A particularly illuminating email from Officer Ryan Lord offers insight into the attitude of some of the officers who regularly dole out citations to our community of people experiencing homelessness in Boulder. (See Officer Lord express that homeless people can leave the country if they want here: bit.ly/BPD_officerlord). In March, Lord wrote to the City Manager complaining that homeless people are not dealt with punitively enough for his liking. Officer Lord would, it appears, have Boulder’s already overcrowded jail filled with people serving the maximum sentence possible for crimes related to their unhoused status.
More revealing, is Officer Lord’s opinions about Boulder’s laws targeting homeless folks. He wrote “The Constitutionally questionable ‘City Manager Rule’ on smoking is one of those laws we, as the Police, are told to enforce. Why? It is focused on a particular demographic. And yet, as the most obvious extension of the City Government, we, the police, are castigated because the City Council has put us in the untenable position of enforcing their laws and not stepping up to assume the responsibility for those laws.” Officer Lord goes on to warn against a police oversight committee that he asserts could lead to an “out of control homeless issue,” citing Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco and describing them as “veritable cesspools of rot and decay.”
That’s a lot to unpack, but it is telling that a Boulder Police Officer is stating on the record that our enforcement policies against homeless people are unconstitutional.
On that at least, I agree with Officer Lord.